13 March 1889
Remarkable Suggestions Regarding the Whitechapel Murders
I received a most extraordinary letter the other day from a man about the Whitechapel murders: "The true authors," he writes, "of these Whitechapel and Bradford crimes are radical humanitarians, who have been sitting upon the safety valve of humanity until the beast that boils within has burnt up the whole concern. Formerly we had, to let off the steam, our bull and bear baitings, our public executions, our constant soldier and sailor floggings, our prize fights. Now, with the exception of a few field sports, of necessity confined to the more wealthy and genteel members of the community, this England of ours has no legitimate vent for that inborn ferocity which is as natural to man as thirst, hunger or love. Why, sir, thanks to your rascally and preposterous radical legislation, many an Englishman now passes through life from childhood to old age, and never even sees blood, except in an underdone chop at an eating house.
Consider, sir, who are the most polished people of the world. The Frenchman, softened by constant revolutions and the guillotine; the Spaniard, mollified by bullfights; the Italian, whose severe treatment of all domestic animals, and especially post horses, leaves his mind suave, gentle and tender for intercourse with his kind. What men in all history, except perhaps our own Irish landlords, have been among themselves so polite, so amiable, so courteous as the chivalrous slave holding aristocracy of Carolina and Maryland? Why? Because they had a safety valve. When they felt they wanted to let out they went down among their niggers and got it over. After an hour or so of flogging, branding and eye gouging, they came home, had a bath, put on a clean shirt, had an easy shave and descended to make themselves pleasant among their peers at the dinner table like Christian gentlemen.
The plain truth is, that if you want to go through the pretence of expelling nature with the fork, it must be a wide pronged fork that will let a good deal of nature through. We shall never get rid of these Whitechapel crimes until we recur to the wise measures of our ancestors, and provide a little legalised and reasonable barbarity for our masses at stated intervals. Let us be moderately and rationally brutal one day in the week, in order that we may be meek, gentle and forbearing the other six.
It has been well said (and in more senses than one) that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. Why, sir, even in the Middle Ages (those "Ages of Faith") the torch of Christian charity and brotherly love had to be constantly rekindled at the auto da fe. Let us then kill or torture something from time to time - a criminal, an animal of some sort, or of the worst comes to the worst, an insect (or why not a pauper?) - to make us kind to the weak ones of our race, the women and the little boys whom (really for want of something else to do) we now butcher and mutilate in Whitechapel and Bradford." - (London Truth)